Jataka Tales: The Buddha’s many lives

Once upon a time, an acorn fell on top of a little bird named Chicken Little and he thought the skies were coming down. He made a huge commotion and set the other animals running as well. This story is a part of Aesop’s Fables. But even before Aesop and Chicken Little, there was a hare in an Indian Jungle who feared that doomsday was … Continue reading Jataka Tales: The Buddha’s many lives

Mark Twain in Mumbai

This picture shows you, what used to be the grand Watson’s Hotel in Bombay. This ghost of a building known today as Esplanade Mansion, quietly awaits its fate in the Fort area of Mumbai. But before its sad demise, the hotel saw many glittering days and equally glittering people. In 1896, an American author and satirist came to India. He had made much money in … Continue reading Mark Twain in Mumbai

Chennai Genesis

Before Madras became Chennai in 1996, Madrasapattinam had to become Madras. How did this historic city begin? The story of Madras began in 1644 with Fort St. George. The British East India Company had been around since the 1600s and was aggressively expanding its business in the East Indies which included present day Eastern India and South East Asia. Securing land for ports at strategic … Continue reading Chennai Genesis

The Wolves of the Carnatic

In the 18th century, the British established the Madras Presidency on the South Eastern Coast of India. The Carnatic, though part of the presidency, was ruled independently by the Nawab of Arcot, Muhammad Ali Khan Wallajah. He became great friends with the British in the 1750s, after they helped him acquire larger territories by defeating his rivals during the Siege of Arcot. But everything has … Continue reading The Wolves of the Carnatic

Golu – Toying with tradition

Dolls in vibrant colours, stacked on steps that sometimes reach the ceiling, suddenly appear, every year in South Indian Hindu households. After spending most of the year locked up in trunks, protected by moth balls, someone lets them out for ten very special days every autumn. These ten days, called Navaratri or Dussehra, mark an important Hindu festival. In South India, especially in the states … Continue reading Golu – Toying with tradition

Charles XIV John of Sweden – From prisoner in India to King of Sweden

A very long time ago, a young Frenchman came to South India to fight an American war and became a British prisoner. He would one day be appointed king of Sweden. Before confusing you any further, let me tell you how it all happened. In 1775 the Thirteen American Colonies, controlled by the British, declared independence, calling themselves for the first time, the United States … Continue reading Charles XIV John of Sweden – From prisoner in India to King of Sweden

Sadras Fort – Losing the battle to obscurity

The best way to reach Sadras, is to get lost on your way from Chennai to Mahabalipuram or Pondicherry. I, on the other hand, have lived near Sadras Fort all my life.  For years, I passed by its walls on my way to and from school.  The 17th century fort, was just part of the background. Visiting it never struck me as something to do. … Continue reading Sadras Fort – Losing the battle to obscurity

Chennai’s 2000 year old Christian legacy

Temple gopurams and church spires dot Chennai’s skyline, side by side, bearing witness to the centuries old coexistence of Hinduism and Christianity. Christianity reached India over 2000 years ago. But how did something that started somewhere around modern day Palestine, gain such a strong foothold in ancient India? The long saga of Christianity in India, according to Christian tradition, began with St. Thomas, one of … Continue reading Chennai’s 2000 year old Christian legacy

Chennai’s Kaapiright? – The true origins of coffee

The sun may rise in Chennai, when it will, but morning only arrives with the first whiff of coffee. Chennai’s affair with filter coffee or Kaapi is old news. Tamilians met coffee somewhere around the 19th century, fell head over heels and have stayed very much in love since. The mighty bean, despite what some coffee lovers will tell you, is not indigenous to India. … Continue reading Chennai’s Kaapiright? – The true origins of coffee